3 Steps to KEEPING Your Best Employees

Girl answering questions of employee with laptop

Congratulations! You have found and hired an A-Player employee. This employee is exceeding your expectations in lots of different ways. It feels too good to be true! You may already be hearing a nagging voice in your head, asking, “Just how will you hang on to this really good talent?”

Keeping your best employees happy and engaged takes effort, but the payoff is well worth the investment of your time and energy. Obviously, proper training is important to getting your employees off to a good start. But that is only part of the equation for keeping A-Players and getting top performance from your A-Players. Here are 3 steps to keeping you’re best employees that many small business owners overlook.

Communication is key. Set up regular 1:1 meetings with employees reporting directly to you. Make sure your managers are doing the same with employees reporting to them. Ideally, these meetings should happen weekly.

These weekly 1:1 meetings become the opportunity for you to get to know your direct reports, coach them for higher and higher goal attainment, and provide on-going feedback about their performance.

These weekly meetings are also “containers” for all the questions your direct reports will have for you. You will find that the interruptions from employees with questions will diminish considerably when you maintain these weekly meetings.

A-Players like to be challenged. Don’t hesitate to delegate to them. Many a business owner has hired a great new employee with a lot of potential and then told me that he or she did not want to “overwhelm” the new employee with too much responsibility. That’s certainly a good intention, but how will you really know if your employee is overwhelmed?

Again, communication is key. Let your employee know that you believe in her ability, and that you expect her to speak up if she is overwhelmed by the responsibilities that have been delegated.

Clarify what “A-Player Performance” really means to you. Take the time to clarify the specific outcomes and results you want your employees to produce for you, and in what time frame. Communicate these expectations verbally and in writing. Then, step back and give your employees the latitude to produce these results in whatever way works for them. Avoid micromanaging your A-Players. Micromanagement is the slow kiss of death to an A-Player’s motivation.

There is one caveat to this: it is critical that you have articulated your Immutable Laws and hired employees who embody your Immutable Laws. If you have done so, it is much easier to give employees latitude to figure out their own ways of getting the results you are looking for. Here’s an example to illustrate this.

Let’s say you have hired Matt, a new saleperson. You’ve told Matt you expect to see a 10% increase in sales over the next quarter. You will let Matt determine how he wants to do that and you intend to support his efforts through your weekly 1:1 meetings and coaching.

You value honesty and integrity seeking to sell your customers only what they need. Unfortunately, you did not do a thorough job of ascertaining if Matt is a good fit with your Immutable Laws. Although you’ve communicated these Immutable Laws to Matt, and he nodded along in agreement during the interview, Matt values earning his commission above integrity in selling customers only what they truly need. Uh-oh. There is trouble ahead.

As Matt goes about hitting the goal of increasing sales by 10% during the next quarter, you begin hearing from other employees that Matt is a great “up-seller.” At first all seems good. Then you get a call from an angry, long-standing customer who feels Matt really pressured him into buying an expensive part that he did not need.

A week goes by, and you observe Matt talking with another customer who you know very well. Again, you hear Matt “up-sell” this customer on an expensive, additional service that this customer really does not need. As the customer hesitates, you listen as Matt pours on the sales pitch. Inwardly, your stomach knots up.

You have a dilemma on your hands. While Matt is hitting the goal you set for him, he is doing it in a way that makes you very uncomfortable. He is not representing you or your business in the way you want to be represented.

To give A-Players the latitude to determine how they will get you the results you are seeking, you must do the work ON your business first, and incorporate solid screening techniques to make sure you are hiring employees who hold core values similar to your Immutable Laws.

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